In the Outpourings of Rage Around Ferguson: Taking Responsibility For The WHOLE THING

November 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader

Last night, I was out on the streets as part of the major wave of protests shutting down business as usual in the wake of the outrageous refusal to indict Darren Wilson for the cold-blooded murder of Michael Brown. I ran in the streets with thousands of others for hours. We were jubilant, we were outraged, we were aching deeply in our hearts, but we were together and we were strong and we are right and we are not stopping!

I want to share some important observations about some of the best of what I witnessed from revolutionary communists out on the street. I call this taking responsibility for the whole thing in two senses – taking responsibility for the crowd as a whole, and taking responsibility for linking up this particular struggle with the fight for revolution and all the way emancipation as a whole. For the purposes of this piece, I am drawing on the experience of one comrade in particular.

First off, this person took responsibility for really forging a massive collective feeling of togetherness, determination, collective strength and resolve. She stepped forward, not because it was planned that way, but because it was needed – not just once, but over and over throughout the night. She repeatedly agitated and got the crowd agitating with her about why they were out there together, why they were right to be outraged, and what was called on them to do. She was very cognizant of the fact that many were protesting for the very first time and took special effort to lead them to transform very quickly from newbies, some uneasy at first even raising their voices to yell, into a strong, collective group who had not only found their voices, but were taking responsibility to lead others. At times, she did this by leading the crowd simply to repeat, “We are different today. We are standing up. We are together. We are right. We are not backing down.” Repeatedly, she reminded them of the right they had on their side, “Every day, the police come in and snatch our children away. Every day they lock them up. Every day they gun us down. Every day their killer police walk free. Every day they try to shut us down. Then they tell us to respect their decision. Respect their laws. Respect their process. Respect their system. As they keep killing our Black and Brown youth. NO! No! NO! We don't respect their process. We don't respect their decision. We don't respect their system. We respect the lives of Black people. We respect the pain of Michael Brown's parents. We respect the future of our youth. So, tonight WE ARE GOING TO WALK FREE. Tonight WE ARE GOING TO WALK FREE. Tonight, we will NOT BE SHUT DOWN. Tonight, we SHUT THEM DOWN. Tonight, SHUT THEM DOWN. SHUT IT DOWN. SHUT IT DOWN. SHUT IT DOWN. SHUT IT DOWN!” Imagine every single phrase of that repeated by hundreds and then thousands.

She paid a lot of attention to the crowd, leading new and especially very young people to step to the bullhorn and find their voices. Sometimes, to give them more confidence, she would bring two or three young people up together to have each other's backs and she would talk to them to get them ready. At one point, a group of Black teenage women stepped forward and one of them shared a heart-rending story of being stopped, shoved to the ground, and punched repeatedly by a cop when she was just 14 years old. She told through streaming tears about how she had flashed to her parents and her family and the pain they would feel if she were killed at that moment. This comrade held her up as she spoke and shook. But that is not all: when the young woman trailed off, breaking down in heavy sobs, this comrade gave her words to find her strength again, suggesting softly that she call out, “This has to stop.” The young woman did, and the crowd echoed. The comrade whispered, “Say it again.” The young woman did, this time stronger. The crowd got stronger too. Again and again the comrade urged the young woman on and again and again she called out, “This must END!,” each time stronger until she and her friends and the entire crowd had come through the pain and the trauma and found once again their sense of strength and even deeper righteous outrage.

The other big way that this comrade took responsibility is by repeatedly giving them a sense of the bigger picture that all this is part of. She didn't just say these things, she led the crowd to feel these things together. Several times and at different junctures in the marching – in the beginning as people were still gathering, while folks were getting tired and starting to drag while blocking a major intersection, after the crowd was attacked and dispersed by police as part of bringing everyone back together – this comrade led people through mic-checks that gave people both the sense of the tremendous important of standing up NOW and NOT BACKING DOWN and of how all this is linked up with and must contribute to BUILDING UP THE STRENGTH FOR ALL THE WAY REVOLUTION AT THE SOONEST POSSIBLE TIME to bring into being a world where all this carnage against Black people and all this oppression and exploitation that is so much part of the daily lives of billions on our planet really is no more.

She said, for instance, “Obama said we are a nation of laws. Obama said we have to respect the decision. Sure, this is a nation of laws. Laws built on white supremacy. Laws that enforced slavery. Laws that enforced segregation. Laws that defended lynchings. Laws that send millions of our youth to prison. Laws that let killer cops walk. Laws that send tear-gas and brutality against protesters. We don't respect those laws. We don't respect this process. We don't respect this system. We don't respect their authority. We don't respect their billy clubs. We don't respect their blue. The law and order they enforce is the law and order of modern-day lynchings. Of stop and frisk. Of police murder. Of sobbing parents. It stops today. Look around you. See all the cops. Their power is not legitimate. Look around you. See all these beautiful faces. White and Black and Latino and Asian. Immigrant and US-born. Male and female and trans and more. These are the future. We are the ones with right on our sides. We are not scared of their billy clubs. We are not scared of their arrests. We are not scared of what they will do if we stand up. We are scared of what happens if we lie down. We are tired of them killing our youth. But we are not tired of marching. We are not tired of yelling. We are not tired of standing up. This feels good. Don't you feel good? Amerikkka want to kill our youth. Shut Amerikkka down. Amerikkka wants to kill our youth? Shut Amerikkka down! This is how we will win justice. This is how we change ourselves. This is how we change the world. And this is how we build up the strength to go all the way. Revolution. Revolution. Bring this system down.”

She went on to talk about a future where: “Never again will Black parents have to fear for their children's lives at the hands of police. Never again will immigrant families be ripped apart by deportation and illegitimate borders. Never again will women know what it is to fear walking down the street or in their homes, of rape and brutality. Never again will children around the world quake in terror at made-in-USA drones and bombs. Never again will we watch the beauty of the oceans and the air and the glaciers and the lands poisoned and destroyed by capitalist greed. Never again. And we know that standing up for Michael Brown, shutting this injustice down, bringing this country to a halt is part of this fight to get a whole new world. We need real revolution. We need all the way revolution. People need to get with this revolution. The Revolutionary Communist Party stands with you in the streets today and we invite you into this revolution! Fighting today must be part of winning a whole new world. You can be part of that. There is nothing more important you can do with your life. You are in the right place. Let's do this together!”

Again, imagine all this as part of a collective mic-check. People got a sense of their power, their collective strength, had their sights lifted, and were invited into a bigger process. It was very striking, that at one point when the crowd had reached a certain juncture and was trying to figure out what to do next, some of the broader masses who had spoken for the very first time at the beginning rally stepped forward to lead the crowd by speaking and providing some orientation. It was also very striking that when they saw this comrade in the crowd they called out to her and pulled her up on top of a structure so that she could agitate and they held her up as she did. When she was done, and throughout the rest of the evening, people came up and hugged her. Thanking her for what she had said, for being there for them and with them. And wanting to stay in touch.

To be very clear, many, many people played a critical and inspiring and even heroic role throughout the night. Thousands did, across this country! Many other revolutionary communists did so and many other people coming from very different perspectives did so as well. I share these observations about this one particular comrade because I think this provides a good model to learn from for many who are part of the movement for revolution at this moment when we are called upon to really take responsibility for everything. We are, after all, just getting started!



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